The first feature by documentary-maker Zauberman conjures up the culture of the Yiddish-speaking Jewish communities of pre-war Eastern Europe - specifically that of a schtetl near the Polish border, where two couples, a 12-year-old Orthodox Jew and his Gentile friend, and the Jew's sister and her communist boyfriend, are forced to flee the disintegrating town. These two friendships are examined with a strange, exultant mix of intimate lyricism and abstract physicality. The Jews' vanished world is seen through a glass darkly, with its ancient wooden interiors, markets, wild landscapes, and clashing generational, cultural and religious conflicts. The mood is hard to define - part gloomy pessimism, reminiscent of early Wajda, part the complex character-weaving of Alexei Gherman. Finally, perhaps, it has echoes of a Tarkovskian spiritual quest - but everything harmonises: Jean-Marc Fabre's saturated b/w imagery, the expressive acting, the evocative use of music (Arvo Pärt's 'Cantus'). A haunting auspicious film.
Cast and crew